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Topeka Public Schools votes to drop masks

Topeka Public Schools votes to drop masks
Published: Mar. 3, 2022 at 6:29 PM CST
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Topeka Public Schools students and staff can hang up the masks -- if they want. The Topeka Public Schools Board of Education voted unanimously on Thursday night, March 3, to make masks optional, but not required in light of recent changes in CDC guidelines.

The changes go into effect immediately.

“Things are looking brighter in Shawnee Co. And Kansas so our decision to adopt those guidelines which encourage masks but doesn’t require them is a reflection of brighter times now,” said Board President Lalo Muñoz.

Students, faculty, staff, and visitors in USD 501 have been required to mask up in TPS buildings since the beginning of the 2021-2022 school year, regardless of vaccination status.

They’re now allowing volunteers in the buildings, athletes won’t have to wear a mask, and there will be no capacity limit at sporting events or in theatres.

The district’s last scorecard shows only three staff and 12 students were COVID positive last week.

If COVID-19 cases go back up, the masks could go back on, following CDC and Shawnee Co. Health Department guidance.

“We heard from experts, but also parents and individuals in our schools and I think everyone is looking forward to being without masks,” said Muñoz. “We can’t wait to have our kids in schools with their teachers smiling and I think everyone is looking forward to that.”

The District said it will continue to keep its stringent cleaning strategies in place and will encourage students to wear masks immediately after out-of-state travel such as for Spring Break.

The Board scheduled the meeting to begin at 5:30 p.m. after many other school districts around the state have repealed there’s as COVID cases in the region decline. Muñoz said USD 501 will not be influenced by other districts.

“Districts have made decisions that are best for them. We made a decision that was best for 501 and we believe that the CDC and other experts’ suggestion that going without masks is okay,” he said.

The board and Kansas Department of Health and Environment agreed to host the clinic at Topeka High School from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on March 25 and another before summer, regardless of masking requirements. A booster option will be available.

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